Discover more from Words From a Fool
To Read: My Years With Townes Van Zandt by Harold Eggers Jr.
A book (and music) recommendation + a fun fact.
In 2020, I started an ongoing series via my Instagram (@conktales) where I posted a handful of quotes from whichever book I’d just finished—but only if it were one I’d recommend to others.
I would like to continue and add to that idea here on Substack; and if you have any book recommendations of your own, I beg you to please share them in the comments for all of us to benefit.
To purchase this week’s recommended book, please consider using the provided Amazon affiliate link here or at the bottom.
Support and subscribe for more recommendations and other posts. It’s FREE!
I write this recommendation in light of an upcoming road trip. Tomorrow (6/30/22) we are packing up The Wagon Cabin and driving 21 hours from Los Angeles to Pine Ridge, South Dakota, where we will spend the weekend at the Wakpamni Lake Annual Powwow, hosted by the Oglala band of the Lakota Tribe.
Most likely I will report on this experience here on Substack in the coming weeks, but in the meantime my focus is on packing, and also on what music needs to be downloaded in case we encounter empty hours with zero cell-service while trucking across America’s mid-section.
Like all my road trips, I know a good chunk of time will belong to the great Townes Van Zandt. His Live at the Old Quarter (1977) album has always been my favorite travel companion—thus being the motivation for this week’s recommendation.
Book Summary (via Amazon):
“Other people locked themselves away and hid from their demons. Townes flung open his door and said, 'Come on in.'” So writes Harold Eggers, Townes Van Zandt's longtime road manager and producer, in My Years with Townes Van Zandt: Music, Genius, and Rage – a gripping memoir revealing the inner core of an enigmatic troubadour, whose deeply poetic music was a source of inspiration and healing for millions but was for himself a torment struggling for dominance among myriad personal demons.
Townes Van Zandt often stated that his main musical mission was to “write the perfect song that would save someone's life.” However, his life was a work in progress he was constantly struggling to shape and comprehend. Eggers says of his close friend and business partner that “like the master song craftsman he was, he was never truly satisfied with the final product but always kept giving it one more shot, one extra tweak, one last effort.”
A vivid, firsthand account exploring the source of the singer's prodigious talent, widespread influence, and relentless path toward self-destruction, My Years with Townes Van Zandt presents the truth of that all-consuming artistic journey told by a close friend watching it unfold.
“When Townes performed, his ability to silence the loudest of rooms was striking. He would tell me it was nothing, that when he sang softer, the audience naturally got quiet. I knew better than that. Even in his early years, he was able to project a stage presence that intrigues and captivated. He never bragged of his talents, just let his lyrics and Mr. Guitar do all the talking…then he slipped off into the night.” p.42
“‘They’re trying to get my mojo, H. In time they will realize each of us have our own mojo, and no matter how you try, you can’t steal somebody else’s.’” p.55 (Townes in response to people asking how he wrote his songs)
“‘If you want to write a great song,’ Townes once said, ‘you have to forsake everything in your life—material possessions, money, family, and love—buy a guitar and hit the road, and don’t ever look back at what you left behind.’” p.56
“Townes believed that you couldn’t sing the blues unless you lived them—infusing your daily routine with a significant amount of blues-drenched strife and despair. To attain a life lived literally “for the sake of the song,” he gradually forsook everything normal and paid a heavy price for it.” p.56
“‘In this business, you can go from the bottom to the top very quickly,’ he told me. ‘You just have to keep trying.’ It was one of the best pieces of motivational advice I’ve ever received in my career.” p.94
“‘Did you see the look of death in their eyes? They lived through a war, but the joy of music still soothes their souls.’” p.131
“‘Don’t forget, H, in the book of my life, the most important thing is to tell the truth, no matter what,’ he said. ‘I want everyone to feel my pain, as I have shared it with you. Do not whitewash anything. Let all the ghosts and demons have their say. That’s what I’ve done my whole life.’” p.137
“‘H, if you want to know my life’s story, listen to my records in the order they were made, and you will hear it in my songs, better than I could ever tell you in words.’” p.177
“‘People will only know who I am after I’m dead.’” p.178
“Even his ongoing self-demolition was intentional. He set his own dynamite, laid the wire, and pushed the plunger. No matter what obstacle he faced, he found a way to live the life he wanted to. How many of us can say that about the lives we lead?” p.181
Listen Below: My favorite Townes song, “Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold”
In September of 2019, the brief relationship I was in at that time was ended and so I hopped in my truck and drove for fifteen days.
It was on this road trip that I had my first interaction with Alex, my now girlfriend of almost three years—my one day future wife. I remember listening to Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold the very next day after we first talked; the song ending with the lyrics:
Feel like lost, you’ll end up found…
And three years, two dogs and three apartments later, here we are building a life together. And now I have this tattoo:
This newsletter is fueled by readership. Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.